The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin

Due to the seriously bad weather in Ireland over the Christmas period, my family and I had to change our plans with regards to some of the sites we wished to visit. A last minute decision therefore led us into making a day trip to Dublin on our last day there, just prior to our return home to Scotland in the evening. I took the opportunity to photograph various sites of interest for a forthcoming book, such as Kilmainham Gaol and O’ Connel Street, but an unexpected bonus was a chance to visit the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, close to Dublin Heuston station, and now the Museum of Modern Art.

DSCN3877The hospital at Kilminham was built in 1680 as a respite home for retired soldiers who had previously served with British forces, acting essentially as a counterpart to its sister institution in Chelsea, London (established in 1682). Kilmainham looked after those who stayed in Ireland after their discharge, and the records for those who received a pension administered by the hospital from 1783-1822 are available on FindmyPast ( After this period out-pensioners payments were administered from Chelsea, with records for these also available on FindmyPast from 1760-1915. Note that if a soldier died in service, or had not served the minimum period of required service, there will be no pension record for him.


After 1822, Kilmainham continued to look after in-pensioners, and continued to do so for another century until 1922 (when the Irish Free State left the United Kingdom), with records for these held at the National Archives at Kew, England, under WO 118 and WO 119. It is worth remembering that soldiers from across Britain and Ireland could be Kilmainham pensioners, just as they could be Chelsea pensioners – it was not the case that the Irish were discharged in Ireland and Britons in England, and so both collections should be searched when looking for military ancestors. For more on pensions, consult the information guides on the English based National Archives site at and Simon Fowler’s book Tracing Your Army Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians 2nd edition (2013, Pen and Sword).

The hospital grounds contain two graveyards, for officers and other ranks, various memorials, and a formal garden. I took a few snaps to give a sense of a place often overlooked by family historians, happily presented below – enjoy!